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12.01.03 1:54 a.m.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'

 -Jack Keruoac  

Previously in Xenology: Xen wrote as therapy, a excretion, as art. Kei, Zack, M, and Xen got on nicely. Zack was an actor. Kate and Sarah liked to vanish and reappear.

It's Not Going to Stop So Just Give Up
Writing for you is a strange proposition. If I am happily playing with my friends, I am least likely to write for you. I tend to only feel the inexorable pull to transcribe my life when it takes some peripetia that throes my innards into sadness.
Not to martyr myself  
There were worse pictures to use.
Also - and I am not fishing for compliments - I don't fancy myself a particularly adept writer. I will grant, as has been said of me by Corinne, that I am a "prolific" writer. However, my prolificacy (or prolixity, depending on one's perspective) extends exactly to one domain: my life and its immediate ramifications upon those in my company. Perhaps this can act as a script of the generalities of modern life. More likely, it is only a few degrees removed from a blog, as uneasy as that admission makes me.
I kid myself into believing that this makes good practice for when I get into writing novels. However, I haven't turned out a word of fiction I care to reread in a year and that was only a fictive rehashing of my nearly nonexistent romance with Eileen. I am trying to write a novel, in that vague way that I have finally formed an outline of the ideas fermenting and fomenting in my head. I thought, once this was done, that the story would make more connections and begin to write itself. It hasn't. I look at my outline and my characters and I don't know that I have the art to pull this off and to make it anything more literate than a banal fantasy novel. I'm not trying to be to the level of A Farewell to Arms, but I'd like to be defter than Anne Rice has been of late.
One of my problem is that I am such an avid reader. My eyes skate over the syllables of James Baldwin and Orson Scott Card and I am intimidated. They can write. I write despite myself. My motivation for writing is and possibly has always been that I know of no other fashion in which I can properly express myself and am so enamored of words that I must create them to maintain mental homeostasis.
None of this is to say that I will lag in my writing one second. We both know that is impossible. I just want to find a story that compels me more than my own life. Or, perhaps, compel my life into a marketable story.

From the Ranks of the Freaks
Zack and I had just settled into Emily house and thoroughly messed up her room when the lights went out. The high winds and impending thunderstorm had made quick work of the power lines and M's family had been dealing with sporadic bouts of electricity all day.
Dinosaur Xen  
Dino Xen fixes lights
I had left a home with electricity and internet access for Emily's delightful company in a mood lit home. Normally, this would mean little more than the mild discomfort of having to talk by scented candlelight (the horror), but Emily needs her ice machine constantly pumping to prevent her knee from remembering what horrors it has seen. She held off for a good half an hour, then, the pain outlining every bit of torn flesh and newly implanted metal, she gasped her insistence that we make a new plan and make it immediately.
We helped Emily into the hallway, where the power mysteriously remained. After placing pillows in a moderately comfortable manner beneath her leg, I noted absently that the electricity in the guest/computer room also worked. Thus, we carried M and her ice machine there so she could recline on the futon and watch Homestarrunner cartoons.
"Look what I can do!" Emily exclaimed once she was settled. I turned from loading Badgers onto her computer to witness her bending her knee about forty-five degrees.
"How much should you be able to bend it?" I asked.
"Not at all in the slightest in the least."
"Then," I offered, "might I say 'wow' and also 'ouch'?"
Though the storm kicked up her fury and it was not a fit night out for man nor beast, Keilaina decided to drive down to us. We tried to tell her this was nothing more than balderdash, but she swayed us by explaining that this was the board game she was bringing. Who can argue with that?
Thus, the rest of the sporadically lit night was spent making up definitions to words (where the four of us excel), making Emily a painted hussy with the help of Kei's Avon samples, and huddling together on Emily's bed taking digital pictures in the dark (many of which are hilarious).
The next morning, after Kei had left to go to work, Emily sheepishly said, "I was uncomfortable about Kei last night."
"So was I. My head was against the wall and it made my neck hurt. Kei gave me very little wiggle room."
"That's what I mean. She had her head on your chest and I couldn't. I know it isn't fair, you weren't doing anything."
"No, I wouldn't. I am for you. Do you think Kei was being insidious?"
Emily laughed, "No, of course not. She wouldn't. But it was too familiar to me. I know it was like cuddling with Zack to you, though."
Elastic Zack  
Zack does stretch both ways.
"As point of fact, Zack was laying on top of both Kei and me. His head was far closer to a naughty place than hers was."
"So I should worry about Zack's intents concerning you?" she joked.
"You mean you didn't before?"
"See! Even Zack gets to be all cuddly with you and I don't. I'm all jealous."
I patted her head in a fashion I though soothing and explained, "You get to cuddle with me in the ways that matter most. And," I added to forestall her coming argument, "you will be doing so very soon."
This, coupled with Zack's excelling at Tony Hawk Pro Skater, made Emily feel mostly secure again. Emily is never fully secure in anything, especially as Zack was skimming along, destroying with ease every high score Emily has established in the interim since her surgery. This caused Emily to exclaim, "I wish I were as cool as Zack."
I patted her head in a less soothing manner, "It's hard work, he has to practice every day."
Scary moster fetishist  
M is scared of monster fetishists.
He turned from the game and expanded, "Yeah, I look in the mirror and go, Ehhh!" The accompanying facial contortion was more than worthy of his coolness.
Emily became distracted from the fact that Zack was both cooler than us and was trouncing her at virtual skateboarding. "I'm reading Cosmo," Emily grinned at me, "I'm going to learn how to make you happy."
"Yet you persist in wearing clothing."
"You wouldn't want me right now; I have a Frankenstein knee."
"You'd be surprised how much I want you."
"Monster fetishist."
Despite his obvious coolness and skill at the Playstation, Zack seemed depressed for much of the morning. We chalked it up to unmentionable family strife until he said over a bowl of microwaved noodles, "Sex is sacred, I've regretted five of the people I slept with."
(By necessity, I am inventing a new convention for Xenology. When characters communicate but use no words, yet the meaning can't quite be conveyed with "I raised an eyebrow and Emily nodded," I am going to put the conversation in brackets. So try to follow along.)
We're birds  
No one can be depressed now.
I raised an eyebrow at M, [[He's regretted five? Okay, he clearly doesn't regret Eve, Patti, or Veronica. Probably not Cat, either.]]
[[Yeah, how can he regret five? How many people has be slept with?]] Emily's eyes darted sideways.
[[Um... nine, at least. Right?]] I bit the side of my lip.
[[That makes sense, but I can't account for them.]] She frowned.
[[Neither can I. Maybe six or seven, but not nine. I'll have to ambush him and make him tell me later.]] I smiled wryly.

Every Little Step He Takes
A few days after our sleepover, I finally talked myself into seeing Zack's current play "A Chorus Line". Seeing Zack act is always a pleasure, but "A Chorus Line" is a dreadful play. Worse, Zack told us that he had the smallest of parts, appearing only in the beginning and end, so it barely seemed worth it. Still, with Kei as my escort, I would have someone to whom I could whisper my annoyance that this musical didn't involve the random assassination of loud characters.
"No one has been bad enough to deserve you wanting them dead yet," Kei chided.
"Oh, but they will and you know it." She hardened her lower lip in defiance, forcing me to add, " which girl on stage is the one that Zack likes?"
Her head turned and she whispered sharply, "He likes someone in this?! Who?"
"I don't actually know. He just mentioned that he did."
She scanned the opening number for attractive females at whom she could shoot figurative darts. Perhaps later, literal ones.
After the opening number, we were surprised to see Zack some back out on stage. There he remained for the rest of the play, and had several solos and his own song about working in a strip club. Small part indeed.
"Do you think his wife in the play is the girl he likes?" asked Kei.
"I doubt it, frankly. She doesn't seem at all like his type. Not that I have the slightest idea what is type is, merely that she isn't it."
"I don't know. He has to cuddle next to her for an hour and a half each show and be all cutesy. That would make me like someone," she demurred.
"So you are saying that proximity alone makes you like someone? Good to know," I teased. So, logically, she threw her program at me.
One Singular Sensation  
Second best to none.
After the show, we confronted Zack in his gold lamé suit. "So, you had a tiny part?" I began.
"Hardly on stage at all, were you?" continued Kei.
"Yeah, I blinked for two hours and missed him."
"Guys, I really didn't have a big part when I agreed to do this. Then people quit and they realized, 'Hey, Zack knows how to sing and dance!' so I got bumped up from the chorus."
"Truly an inspiring and apropos tale. That being said, Zack, skip any tentative cast party and come eat with us." This was not a particularly risky proposal; Zack is no fan of cast parties nor of certain members of the cast.
On our way to greasy food and poor atmosphere, Keilaina divulged that she pays rent to her mother.
"You do? But... you sleep in a bed with your mother," I gasped, "how much does she charge you?"
"$250 a month and I do not sleep in a bed with my mother. She just sometimes sleeps in my bed when I am not there; we work different shifts."
Zack was equally astounded, "But she sleeps in your bed. And you pay her. It doesn't add up. Are there drugs involved? Is it the drugs?"
"No... I don't think so... Although that would explain these tract marks..." she bantered.

The Long Farewell of the Hunger Strike
Emily and I are planning an hors d'ouvres party for New Year's Eve and I took it upon myself to make the guest list. By this I mean "I blind carbon copied the invitation to everyone in my address book."
Sarah could exist  
This ultraviolet could be visible.
You must keep in mind that Emily's parents are leaving her alone in the house for a week and we need to certain that we will have enough guests to give the coming year a proper reception. You do not want a whole year acting pissy. Years are notoriously temperamental. Thus, it would be negligent at the very least not to have a large party with many anonymous friends of friends.
After a few days of few RSVPs, a letter from Kate dinged into my in-box regrettably announcing that her presence was decidedly unlikely. The reason was a simple one. Kate had fled the Hudson Valley for a job and apartment in the big city. Her abode is shared with an associate who sleeps on the couch and her pad is a ten-minute walk to her punk rock/environmental lawyer boyfriend's place. But that, of course, is purely coincidental. As should be expected, Kate is having a perfectly marvelous time of it, taking full advantage of the ease with which she can get tickets to the tapings of TV shows (one of Kate's close friends and near lesbian lover does quite a bit of lighting and is ergo connected). So, in summation, Kate is out for a bit.
However, Sarah informs me that she intends to move to New Paltz shortly. I cannot divulge exactly when this is, as I do not actually know nor am I in an optimistic enough start to enumerate chicken fetuses. But, it is within the realm of possibility that Sarah will become a physical force in my life and a tangible member in my cadre.
There is a balance.

Soon in Xenology: Sleepovers. Recovery. Conor and Flynn. My birthday. Christmas. New Years.

last watched: Pirates of the Caribbean
reading: The Bell Jar, Understanding Comics
listening: Aimee Mann
wanting: A more tangible muse.
interesting thought: Nothing could stop me from writing.
moment of zen: Cuddling with my closest friends.
someday I must: Explain the proper and improper use of the futon.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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